Tuscany Conservation in Action
Future of Food
- Examine sustainable practices on an organic farm.
- Forage for truffles, visit a biodynamic vineyard, and learn how gelato is made.
- Go hiking and learn about traditional fishing in the Cinque Terre.
Agricultural ecologist Jerry Glover will join both departures at the agriturismo.
This expedition was specially crafted to involve students in ongoing conservation efforts with researchers in the field. More »
Itinerary 14 Days
In Tuscany, small, family-run farms punctuate hills studded with olive groves; wild boar roam through hemlock forests; and markets brim with garden-fresh ingredients. It’s no surprise that Italy— where delicious, healthy food is woven into the fabric of life—has long been at the forefront of the sustainable food movement. Go behind the scenes with local producers and agricultural conservationists to explore and taste Tuscan cuisine from the field to the fork, and work on a traditional farm to learn sustainable ways to feed our growing planet.
Days 1-5. Our program begins in the beautiful walled city of Lucca, nestled in the Tuscan countryside amid cypress-spired hills and orchards. Get to know your peers during an orientation and begin exploring Italy’s rich and varied food culture. Sample the flavors in one of the world’s oldest family-run gelaterias and visit local markets and restaurants, where cultural demand for certain ingredients can have a direct impact on conservation. Meet with culinary professionals, food ecologists, and pioneers of the Slow Food movement to examine some of the food challenges facing our growing planet. During a Tuscan cooking class, collaborate with your group to prepare a delicious, locally sourced meal. On excursions to neighboring towns, delve into Italy’s artisanal food production. Interview vendors at Florence’s Mercato Centrale and restaurateurs in Siena who serve wild boar, or cinghiale, to manage the overpopulation of the species. Apprentice with local beekeepers, try your hand at making ricotta and pecorino cheeses at an organic dairy, go behind the scenes at a meat-processing facility, and visit a biodynamic vineyard.
Days 6-7. Broaden your understanding of Italian cuisine during two days in the Cinque Terre—a stretch of the Ligurian coast where pastel-hued villages cling to rocky shores. Interview families who have been fishing here for generations, and learn about the links between sustainable fishing practices and the health of our oceans. After tasting the day’s catch, hike the slopes high above the Mediterranean and go for a swim.
Val d’Orcia and Farm Life
Days 8-14. Travel over rolling hills into the sunflower speckled valleys south of Siena, and settle into an agriturismo, a traditional working farm where guests learn about and take part in daily operations. Our new home is situated in Val d’Orcia, a rich agricultural region and UNESCO World Heritage site of outstanding natural beauty. Together with our National Geographic expert, join agricultural conservationists and farmers to explore and document food production from farm to table. Participate in the planning, planting, and tending of an heirloom garden and work on a project to reduce carbon emissions at the farm. Collect soil samples to research crop rotation, help with composting and water conservation efforts, and monitor water runoff .
In the surrounding hills, go foraging for the coveted white truffle with a tartufaio (truffle hunter) and his dog and search for wild berries and mint. Visit the historic Castello di Spannocchia to learn about methods for breeding native Cinta Senese pigs, and challenge your palate during a tasting of locally cured salumi. In the evening, take turns preparing dinner for the group and dine under the stars. Work on an analysis of our host agriturismo and several nearby restaurants and make recommendations on areas where sustainable practices could be improved. Collaborate on a final group project that highlights how we can grow, cook, and eat food while protecting our planet. On the last night of our adventure, celebrate your work during a multi-course feast of your own design.